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Friday 20 January 2017

What is 3D printing and how does a 3D printer works?

3D printing technology:What is it and how it works?

how 3d printer works
3D printer
Story Highlights

  • What is meant by 3D printing
  • History of 3D printing
  • How does a 3D printer works?
  • Types of 3D printing
  • Applications of 3D printing

3D printing, refers to processes used to synthesize a three-dimensional object in which successive layers of material are formed to create an object. In broader sense the term additive manufacturing (AM) is used in synonym with 3D printing.3D printing can be used to mould almost any shape or geometry and are produced using digital model data from a 3D model or another electronic data source.

History of 3D printing

Early additive manufacturing equipment and materials were developed in the 1980s.A man named Chuck Hull is the patent holder of 3D printing. Then in 1984, Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corporation developed a prototype system based on a process known as stereolithography, in which layers are added by curing photopolymers with ultraviolet light lasers. Hull defined the process as a "system for generating three-dimensional objects by creating a cross-sectional pattern of the object to be formed.After that in late 80s and early 90s, numerous other 3D printing technologies have been developed, such as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)/Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), PolyJetting and others, all of which rely on layer-by-layer fabrication and are based on a computer code fed to the printer.

How Do 3D Printers Work?

3D printing can be achieved by number of techniques called stereolithography(SL), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)/Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), PolyJetting etc.Let us have a look at each technology.In every process ,printer is controlled by a computer that converts 3D model file into a special code stream that can be understood by a 3D printer machine.



Stereolithography is the first form of 3-D printing technology used for creating models, prototypes, patterns, and production parts in a layer by layer fashion using photopolymerization, a process by which light causes chains of molecules to link together, forming polymers.
It is an additive manufacturing process that works by focusing an ultraviolet (UV) laser on to a vat of photopolymer resin.]With the help computer aided design software (CAD), the UV laser is used to draw a pre-programmed design or shape on to the surface of the photopolymer vat. Because photopolymers are photosensitive under ultraviolet light, the resin is solidified and forms a single layer of the desired 3D object This process is repeated for each layer of the design until the 3D object is complete.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

FDM 3D printing(
Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is also an additive manufacturing technology used for 3D printing. The technology was developed by S. Scott Crump in the late 1980s and was commercialized in 1990
3D printers that run on FDM Technology build parts layer-by-layer from the bottom up by heating and extruding thermoplastic filament. The process involves three steps.
1. Pre-processing: Build-preparation software slices and positions a 3D CAD file and calculates a path to extrude thermoplastic and any necessary support material.
2. Production: The 3D printer heats the thermoplastic to a semi-liquid state and deposits it in ultra-fine beads along the extrusion path. Where support or buffering is needed, the 3D printer deposits a removable material that acts as scaffolding.
3. Post-processing: The user breaks away support material or dissolves it in detergent and water, and the part is ready to use.
This is one of the simplest and widely accepted for small scale use at home and offices. 

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective Laser Sintering(wikipedia)
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) involves the use of a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic, or glass powders into a mass that has a desired three-dimensional shape. The laser selectively fuses powdered material by scanning cross-sections generated from a 3-D digital description of the part (for example from a CAD file or scan data) on the surface of a powder bed. After each cross-section is scanned, the powder bed is lowered by one layer thickness, a new layer of material is applied on top, and the process is repeated until the part is completed.


A polyJet printer from  stratasys
Polyjetting was invented by the Israeli company Objet. PolyJetting incorporates elements of both inkjet 2D printing and the Stereolithography process. In polyjetting inkjet nozzles spray a a liquid photosensitive resin onto a build platform in a similar fashion as ink is sprayed onto a paper during a typical 2D printing process.Immediately after the spraying UV light source is introduced to the material.Next layer is grown immediately after previous layer is hardened.

3D printing :Where it is used?

Manufacturing applications

Cloud-based additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing in combination with cloud computing technologies allows decentralized and geographically independent distributed production.Cloud-based additive manufacturing refers to a service-oriented networked manufacturing model in which service consumers are able to build parts themselves. Some companies offer on-line 3D printing services to both commercial and private customers,working from 3D designs uploaded to the company website. 3D-printed designs are either shipped to the customer or picked up from the service provider.

Mass customization

Companies have created services where consumers can customize objects using simplified web based customization software, and order the resulting items as 3D printed unique objects.This now allows consumers to create custom cases for their mobile phones.Nokia has released the 3D designs for its case so that owners can customize their own case and have it 3D printed

Rapid manufacturing

Advantage of 3D printing for rapid manufacturing lies in the relatively inexpensive production of small numbers of parts.

Rapid prototyping

At present prototyping is the main application of 3D printing.With the help of 3D printing engineers can finish prototypes within the time bound.


Foods like chocolate,candy,flat foods such as crackers, pasta and pizza can be easily prepared by layer by layer 3D printing.Customization of such food items has also been become possible via 3d printing.

Industrial applications


3D printing has entered the world of clothing with fashion designers experimenting with 3D-printed sandals, shoes, and dresses.In commercial production Nike is using 3D printing to prototype and manufacture the 2012 Vapor Laser Talon football shoe for players of American football, and New Balance is 3D manufacturing custom-fit shoes for athletes.

Automotive industry

3D printing is helpful in manufacturing different automotive parts. Urbee is the name of the first car in the world car mounted using the technology 3D printing (its bodywork and car windows were "printed"). In May 2015 Airbus announced that its new Airbus A350 XWB included over 1000 components manufactured by 3D printing. 3D printing is also being utilized by air forces to print spare parts for planes. 


Construction 3D printing, the application of 3D printing to fabricate construction components or entire buildings has been in development since the mid 1990s, development of new technologies has steadily gained pace in recent years.


3D printing has been used to print patient specific implant and device for medical use. Research is also being conducted on methods to bio-print replacements for lost tissue due to arthritis and cancer.
3D printing technology can also be used to make exact replicas of organs. The printer uses images from patients' MRI or CT scan images as a template and lays down layers of rubber or plastic. This will be of great help to physicians to study their patients better.


3D printing can also be used to make electronic circuits and devices. In semiconductor industry ,3D printing technology is getting wider acceptance for prototyping and manufacturing.

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